kendi and bryan’s dream report: week three

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Right Steps, Wrong Order

The last few weeks we’ve found ourselves lost. Completely lost. But the thing is we were doing everything right. We were working on the business, the web pages, the strategy. We met with a few clients to square things away for their upcoming weddings. But it was all wrong.

A few Saturdays ago, we were eating lunch at a little hamburger joint in town. We were laughing and having a great lunch when out of nowhere the conversation took a steep decline. I started talking about feeling lost in all of this (the business), how I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was doing it for. But I just kept on doing it because well, wasn’t that the right thing to do? We were taught as children that persistence is what brings success. I do not deny this truth, but persistence on treadmill is not the same as persistence on a road. Simply put — we were moving, but going nowhere.

We started backtracking the last month. We’d both been working very hard but when we started talking about we realized that we may have been doing things right but we were in fact doing them in the wrong order. We’d started at the bottom, instead of starting at the top of our list. Simply because the bottom part is what we are drawn to, it’s what we both like to do. Instead of working through creating a business plan (which is a beast by the way), figuring out what this whole thing called our business, we immediately delved into creating our website. We’d started branding our company and started creating a website but were lost as to what we were doing.

This is classic cart before the horse move, a move that I’m very familiar with. In fact, if anyone would like for me to write a 500 page book on putting the proverbial cart in front of the horse and then complaining about the horse not doing his job, let me know. I’ll have it to you by Monday.

Frustrated with our branding, frustrated with our progress, tears filled my eyes — where did we go wrong? My napkin turned into a tissue for my rolling tears. I didn’t really have to ask that question out loud before the answer came to both of us. And one cliche after another here, it hit us like a ton of bricks. We weren’t wrong in our actions, we just needed to slow down and start from the top. I think more than anything the beginning or top of the list is the scariest, for me anyways. It’s a list of tasks that must be accomplished one by one, the foundation to what you want to build. One time I tweeted (yes, I tweet) that I like to put things I’ve already accomplished on my to-do list, just to make myself feel better. But making my self feel better isn’t the reason we are building this business. We have a purpose that needs be fulfilled, one task at a time. I don’t know if any of you are Arrested Development fans, but you know the episode where Gob becomes president of the construction company and he wants to build a house in three weeks instead of 3 months like normal? This seems to be my business strategy most days. The faster the better! But just as Gob’s shell of a house (literally a shell) fell down, our business will too if we don’t take the time to take each step and fulfill it.

We’ve since started our first task — establishing a business plan. This is a process that neither one of us are familiar with. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Bryan looked at me the other day and said “I have no idea what I’m doing.” To which I replied “No one really does.” We must do what we know and learn the rest.

In an act of selflessness and pure empathy, I am asking you to comfort me with your own stories of the right persistence, wrong direction. If you don’t, I will just assume you really like to start at the beginning and not the end, even if it is just to make me feel better.

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  1. Sara

    So the thing that often gives me some confidence is somewhat silly and a bit insulting to others, but that sounds right up Kendi’s alley 😉 If and when I’m thinking “I don’t know if I can do this, it’s so complicated” I remind myself that many dumber people have done it before me, and so I just HAVE to be able to get it right, and likely more right than a lot of others. You can call it a “remind yourself you’re not incompetent” slap in the face, if you will! Good luck!! 🙂

  2. Gina

    Oh Kendi, I do this all.the.time.

    I like to do the fun stuff at the bottom of the list and ignore the annoying stuff like business plans and making money.

    I think it is natural, but one step at a time and checking off the not-so-fun items will make the fun ones even better, and more profitable. And we are all here to make a profit, right?

    I am currently working on a business plan too and I know how they can be…hang in there :).

  3. You know, Kendi, I’ve been reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill – a classic from the 1930s – and he talks about his Mastermind group, men he admired (Lincoln, Edison, Carnegie, etc…) that he imagined meeting with in his mind, asking them for advice on overcoming obstacles or changing his character.

    Now, I am not suggesting you go talk to Edison and Ford in your head, but I am suggesting that if you do not know how to do a thing, why not go ask those who do? The small business association helps business owners find mentors, but I suggest you find a successful photographer, maybe not one who is direct competition and ask them for guidance and help. Or consider forming a group of local successful business people (or if folks are far away you can meet online) and pool your mental energies.

    I disagree, there ARE people who “know what they are doing”, in that they have learned what works for them and will be willing to share. If you don’t know, find someone who does and ask for guidance.

    I hope this helps, I am a big fan of you both and want to see you succeed.


  4. Jill

    I like Sara’s comment… so true! Kendi you are smart and talented and hardworking. Put it all together and you can’t go wrong. (I’m sure the same goes for Bryan)

    I often find clarity with the saying “if you are climbing the ladder towards success, make sure you have it leaned upon the right building” or in other words, make sure that the steps you are taking are going in the direction you intend them to go. It’s harder to build a business than a hobby… but if a business is where you want to go, you have to focus your efforts as such. This is one of the main reasons I quit my job three (four!?) years ago… doing “good” or “right” or “successful” things in the wrong direction actually don’t turn out to be good/right/successful.

    We all have full faith in you two and are supporting you 100%!

  5. Katie W

    I can totally appreciate your position… I’m not developing a business, but I know I wanted to do all the fun DIYs for my wedding before I had a venue or food or an officiant! That’s terrible… It’s like, “Oh, we’re not actually getting married today because I forgot to get someone who could, but don’t you just love the homemade biscotti, handpainted mugs, and self-embossed favor tags we made?!”

    I think you should look to “treat” yourself with some of those bottom of the list tasks as you complete the top of the list! Good luck you two!

    PS – Will this be a traveling business, because that whole wedding thing I mentioned fell through and if I get another opportunity I want an amazing photographer!

  6. Nessa

    I am always jumping the gun in excitement and getting to the “good” stuff. I want to make progress, see results. Planning gets pushed aside to get thing accomplished.

  7. Heather

    First what I would do is celebrate what you have accomplished, including the courage to share your story here today.
    You are not alone.. I have had a pattern of putting the cart before the horse myself.. In fact I just started to go down that road recently then i had to check in with myself, jumping ahead of things!
    You also have to remember it’s a process, if there is passion in it that is a huge part, but as you know it’s not the only part of it. Find mentors, books whatever that can help you with what you need, you don’t have to figure it all out on your own! What about in addition to the business plan, a vision board a nice visual reminder to what you really want to create in your business..
    You are doing great, believe in yourself, ask for help where you need it and trust the journey..

  8. Jen

    I definitely do the cart before the horse thing too, Kendi. You are not alone! I think the best thing you have is each other to balance all of this out, as long as you can always be real with each other and keep each other in check, you will be fine (and successful)!

  9. Last week I had an ‘aha’ moment along these lines. I met with my accountability partner and we talked about what we will get done in the coming month. I had listed a marketing-related task as my top priority and she said I really need to get my Hire Me page done for my website. Basically I was ‘putting the cart before the horse’. If I have no products or services for people to buy, I have no clients and therefore I actually do not have a business! It was time to get real. I listed all the tasks I’ll need to tackle in order to get my Hire Me page done, and I’m staying focused on chipping away at them one by one.

    I’m really enjoying your series and appreciate your honesty!

  10. Kendi

    Oh how I love each and every one of these comments. Did you guys want to all meet up and have a coffee date? I’m down for it if you guys are.

    Seriously, THANK YOU for the encouragement. I am so much of a perfectionist at times that it’s overwhelming unproductive. So your advice is always welcome here.

    Jessa — you are so right in suggesting me to ask people who do know what they are doing. I think at times if it’s not hard, then it’s not worth doing so then I just take the hard route. Finding a mentor? That my dear is brilliant. I appreciate the advice more than you know. Now did you want to be mine?

    Jill — I love that mentality! That is SO true and wonderfully put. Let me think on this, where I am placing my ladder (or ladders at times). Those are beautiful words of wisdom and the support!

    Sara — I’ve already slapped myself twice this morning. I’m already feeling better. 😉

    Gina — Ah thank you for making me not feel so alone! We’ve since finished our plan and have moved on. But if you ever want to start a support group called “I hate business plans” I’ll be the vice president.

    Katie — Again, my goodness you guys are geniuses. I rarely “treat” my accomplishes, so that was kind of a wake up call when I read your comment. Of course we should do that! Thank you for the reminder. And yes of course we’re a traveling band of photographers. We’d have it no other way. When the right man comes along for you, you give us a shout. We’ll give you the “good advice” discount.

    Nessa — Jumping the gun just sounds so much more fun than making a plan doesn’t it??

    Heather — Celebrate it is! You know it has been hard to put myself out there in not only this business but through these dream reports! Sometimes it’s scary to hear your own voice, which is what I do every other week with our dream reporter. So thank you for reminding me that it took courage to put myself on the line this week, I appreciate your comment so much. Also I love the idea of a vision board! That is right up my alley!

    Jen — Oh Jen, you hit the nail on the head. Balance is a huge thing for me and B. That is a huge part of our business, thankfully we have that right!

    Lisa — Your ‘a ha’ moment sounds so familiar. I love the idea of an accountability partner when it comes to small businesses or freelance. And how great that she was able to see something that you didn’t at first! I think I’m now in the market for one myself, great advice. So how’s your Hire Me page coming along? 😉

    Again thank you guys for the comments and advice. You’ve helped this girl in more ways than I can tell you.

  11. Piper

    I seriously just nodded my head along to this post Kendi! I completely understand where you’re coming from. I constantly kept doing the things that I enjoyed or were easier on my to-do list and then would inevitably ask “why aren’t i getting anywhere?”! the thing that helps me is that I know I need to tackle the things that feel difficult or aren’t my favorite when I’m the most productive during the day. And then somedays I have to just say that I have to do it no matter what – no more putting it off! You guys are doing so awesome – the fact that you’re doing a biz plan is great! I still need to do that 🙂

  12. Virginia

    Yay for the Arrested Development reference. “My brother said it couldn’t be done – but I didn’t take couldn’t-be-done…for an answer!”

  13. Chelsea

    I haven’t had this realization yet, because I haven’t jumped headfirst into following what I think my dream is. I think what’s holding me back is the fear of having this moment of confusion and being intimidated and not thinking through things. The silly thing is that I’ve acknowledged my fear and I’m still too nervous to prepare enough to avoid this discouraged mindset.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is now that you’ve had your aha moment, you may now blaze on forward, and good luck K & B! And truly. None of us know what we’re doing.

  14. Lauren

    I’ve never gone into business for myself. I’m not really even in the real world yet. I can’t imagine what it must be like to take that kind of leap but if there is something I know, it’s failure. It’s something that became so commonplace during my early college years that I actually stopped getting upset when it happened. After sailing through high school and getting into one of New England’s most difficult engineering schools, I failed. I failed classes, I failed at being a roommate. I lost my scholarship, felt stupid and completely worthless and broke my parents heart. It hurt like hell and I hated waking up each day.
    I finally decided to turn things around. I got help and it turns out that I have a learning disability.

    I never knew or suspected it. High school was extremely easy for me but college didn’t come so naturally and I suddenly couldn’t cope. I had to learn how to learn with a disability. I had to work at it each and every day. I took a class on study skills and did exercises to increase my reading speed without compromising comprehension. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.

    Fast forward 3 years, I graduated from my undergraduate institution with a BS in Biochemistry with honor and got into my top choice Pharmacy school. Despite my overwhelming fears that I would fail again, I just completed my first semester with all A’s.

    I thought college would be just like high school but it was a whole new ball game. I had to learn new strategies. I had to adjust. I had to swallow my pride and accept help for the first time. I had to admit that I have a disability (it’s not always easy to find fault with yourself).

    So, hang in there and assess yourself. What do you know how to do? Where might you need help? What can you do to make life easier for yourself? You can do this. You just need a new game plan. 🙂

  15. Silvana Kathryn

    This story really got to me.
    I am in the process of starting my own business and I feel like I am doing the EXACT same thing you are.
    I spent days on re-branding and web site design, I even spent a long bit of time on product design and yet I still am completely unsure how to actually “start” this business.

    While my husband is very supportive, he is not really involved in the actual business. It has been so difficult trying to find my way on my own. All I have is an overwhelming drive to accomplish this because it is such a massive part of what I want for my future and my family.

    Thanks for sharing!

    PS I follow your blog and love it. Keep up the good work.

  16. annie

    i don’t own my own business (nor have i tried), but this starting backwards thing happens to me all the time! i’m just so impetuous. i plan dinner parties without ever knowing what i’m going to serve (i’m too concerned with party details). i start DIY projects without all of the supplies or dinner without all of the ingredients. i guess the lesson is: dinner parties are no good without food. DIY projects stink when they sit in the corner unfinished. dinner goes in the trash if ingredients aren’t purchased.

    a business has to have the “business stuff” (i.e., the stuff no one likes) or it’s going to sit unused in a corner. chin up, and take the time to do your business the right way. the website and branding will fall into place because that’s what you two are best at!

    can’t wait to hear more!

  17. Heather

    I’m pretty sure that these feelings are pretty common in doing research, since I know that while I’m not going through the same exact thing, I can very much relate to the feelings of frustration you expressed here. Frequently I do things only to later find out that I’ve ended up effectively wasted time and materials where if I had thought things out better originally (or actually pushed myself to talk to someone who really knew what they were doing) my experimental design would’ve been much tighter or I would have known to put my energy elsewhere. It can be easy to get lost in this, so I think it’s better mentally to acknowledge mistakes and then move on and focus on doing things rather than dwelling in feeling lost- and it sounds like that’s exactly what you’ve done.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how this all turns out, and if I end up getting married in Texas (currently live in Houston), I’ll definitely be looking into using you guys 🙂

  18. Cathy

    Kendi, thanks for sharing your stuggles and realizations. And a big “thanks” to everyone who’s shared their stories of failures. As a perfectionist, I try to avoid failure, which cripples my ability to learn and grow.

    And let me know if you have questions about the “boring” business stuff. That’s actually “fun” for me.

  19. bethany

    Kendi! Thanks so much for posting this. I, like many commenters before me, have had the same sort of ‘aha!’ moment recently. Mine actually took place about twelve hours ago when I was daydreaming about someday being a freelance writer who doesn’t have to go into a 9-to-5 job on Monday anymore. I was daydreaming about it and lamenting the fact I have to work tomorrow (Monday) and then do more work for my freelance job AFTER I get home this evening, which leaves no time for working on my blog… And then I realized, I was daydreaming about it instead of actually working on my newest freelance job. Time to get serious! I’m probably not going to get to where I want to be by getting 8 hrs of sleep every night and spending my weekends daydreaming about the illusive “someday.”

    Thanks for sharing your story! Blessings for you and B as you work through this!

  20. Right persistence, wrong direction:

    I’m a children’s author and have been pursuing publication for almost 13 years. I spent years and years subbing directly to editors because you still can in the children’s market and because I secretly felt that sending my work to an agent would just be an extra step I didn’t need.

    I quit teaching at the end of the 2008-2009 school year with no leads whatsoever. The only thing I can tell you is I felt it was time, that I only have one life to live, and I wasn’t giving my best to my family, my students, and my writing. I committed to trying this pursuit of publication full time. I finally took the agent search seriously and by October signed. By March 2010, my book sold at auction (three editors were interested!).

    After nearly twelve years of writing, 220 plus editor rejections and 75 agent rejections, my book sold. My persistence was in some ways misplaced for a number of years, but its what I needed to improve.

    Even if you’ve been heading in the wrong direction, that energy and passion count for something. Enjoy!

    By the way, I spend most of my days in grungy clothes and am very inspired by what I see at your place. You’ve got me trying new things (when I get around to leaving the house).

  21. Maggie Rose

    I can definitely relate to this post as well – I’m in the midst of starting an interior decorating business while still working 32 hours a week (and commuting 12!). Last week I finally did what I should have done right when I started and put together a business plan. I included long-term goals but I primarily focused on what I want to do in the next 12 months. To know what direction I’m heading in makes many day-to-day decisions make so much more sense (and I JUST finished). I also know that when I’m done doing fun stuff (like blogging and shopping for interiors) that there are clear, identified tasks I can be working on. Good luck to you both, and I’m interested to hear more of what the business will be with you both collaborating!

  22. Ashley

    I love that you just used a scene from Arrested Development to explain some things about starting your business. Best show E V E R !

  23. Liz @ Law Mama

    I can totally relate to what you’re going through. I’m starting to feel like the 3 years I spent going to law school was totally misplaced hard work. I’m not entirely sure I really want to be a lawyer anymore. I kind of like being a mom. So I’m at a cross-roads, trying to figure out where I want to go with this degree and this baby… so tricky!


    I don’t have any stories I can offer that relate to your predicament (still rocking the “if you never try anything you’ll never fail” life mode) but I will say that OMG you are totally your own business model just like Starla. 🙂 But way to work on the real thing. Plan sounds solid as a rock.

  25. Rin

    Not that I’m starting a business or anything like that, but I do feel like this a lot. Especially when I am in the think of my semester and have a crap load of work to do and not enough time to do it. A good cry always helps me out. I make an action plan and just start working at it. At the end of the semester, I can sit back and marvel at what I was able to accomplish.

    Good luck with everything. I’m sure everything will turn out okay.

  26. Tricia

    Kendi, Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly adore you more you go and reference Arrested Development! Love it! As much as it is to be 26, it’s also kind of a bitch and I’m constantly questioniny myself and the decisions I made in my early 20s. Hang in there!

  27. Tricia

    Kendi, Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly adore you more you go and reference Arrested Development! Love it! As much fun as it is to be 26, it’s also kind of a bitch and I’m constantly questioning myself and the decisions I made in my early 20s. Hang in there!

  28. Emily

    Good for you for stopping and accessing, not everyone can do that. Wanting to start the fun stuff involved in a project before the mind numbing just means makes you normal.

    I on the the other hand tried to put my bra on over my shirt the other morning. That, that is not normal.

  29. Rebekah

    I’ve had several conversations like this with my husband, and I’m in the same position as you. I’ve started doing without figuring out the why first. 2011 is the year I answer the “why.” Do I have to stop “doing”? No, but it needs to match up with what I uncover.

  30. Debbie

    Hi Kendi and Brian!!

    First off kudos to starting the business!!! My fiance and I just decided back in December that we would join forces and start a photography business. I had been shooting all summer, the same way Brian was, with no direction, just having fun with my camera and interacting with clients.

    Our first debate – the logo! I didn’t want to hire anyone to do it (I’m cheap) and Jared did. Eventually, after listening to some webinars about branding, I realized that if we were putting ourselves out there as professionals and asking people to invest thousands of dollars in us and our work, that we should be able to do the same for our business. Once we got the logo and some of the branding done, we started our blog.

    Now, during the slow months, we are trudging through our business and marketing plans to make sure we have a solid foundation before we make the full time leap (planned for May 2011, in which we will move back to my hometown, two months before our wedding!)

    I highly recommend going to and searching for a Small Business Development Center near you. They offer free support and resources when you engage in counseling. We had our first call this past Saturday and it was fantastic!! It’s so helpful to have someone else to talk to besides each other, and on top of it – our counselor has seen and done it all a million times before!!

    Sorry for writing a book but I have some fantastic resources for starting out in a photo business that might help you guys. Email me – I’d love to chat further! 🙂

  31. Steph

    Kendi, I feel you – and I love the Gob reference. For good advice (and a little inspiration) on building your own business/taking charge, check out A friend of mine is in a web series with her, and I have loved everything I’ve read on her blog thus far.

  32. Katie

    Goodness, I think this post AND all of the comments that followed are the some of the most thoughtful that I’ve ever read. Kendi, you’ve already taken hardest step of deciding to start a business. Remind yourself of that when you feel overwhelmed. And know that you can always rewind and start over at any point where you might have gone off track.

    If you’re lucky enough to be doing something you love, with the person you love, I just don’t think you have anything to lose. Best of luck, kid. I’ll send any engaged Texans your way.

  33. Kelly

    I like to put things I’ve already accomplished onto my to-do list, too. And I also find the top of the to-do list the most frightening. However, finishing the really big things on the to-do list are also the most satisfying. Maybe set up a reward system for yourself – each time you complete a key step, you get something. A coffee break at your favorite coffeeshop, buying a new magazine and reading it, taking a time-out to paint your nails a fun color, etc. Just hang in there! You are both hard workers and are clearly passionate people. That combination never fails.

  34. Kai

    Hi Kendi –

    I recommend checking out Seth Godin’s work – he has a lot to say about what we feel blocked about, what we fear, what we avoid, and how to engage with those things to move past them and be more productive – exactly what you did when you finally looked at that business plan head on. Good luck to you.

  35. daisybabie

    you put your thoughts into words so extremely well, chica. i do not have a wish to start my own business or anything as of right now, but the concept, well, that is one i am familiar with.

    i have a ginormous sweet tooth, and if i have a sudden craving for cake, i know i have to bake a cake in order to have a cake to eat. i could make myself a bowl of sugary cereal to meet the sweet craving, but it would leave me unfulfilled as it was cake i truly wanted. in order to eat cake, i have to start from the beginning of the process: from the ingredients to the oven to my tummy. see, i guess i could totally relate! 🙂

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